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Celts Advance to Vegas Quarterfinals with Exciting Win Over Miami

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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LAS VEGAS – Derrick Walton Jr. missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer for Miami, and for the second time in as many games, the Summer Celtics sidestepped a late comeback attempt by their opponent to advance to the next round of the Summer League tournament in Las Vegas.

Miami trailed by as many as 14 points during the fourth quarter before making it a one-possession game on multiple occasions during the final two minutes. Boston missed four free throws during the final 24 seconds of the game that afforded the Heat an opportunity to grab a shocking win. But Walton Jr. missed his buzzer-beating attempt from 33 feet, and the C’s held on for a 74-72 win.

Boston is now 4-1 in Las Vegas, and it will take on the undefeated Portland Trail Blazers at 8 p.m. ET Sunday night during the quarterfinals of the tournament.

The Celtics owned a lead for the majority of the afternoon matchup with the Heat. Boston never trailed after the game was tied up at 27-27 midway through the second quarter, and it owned a lead for the final 22:56 of the contest, which included the entire second half.

Guerschon Yabusele played a key role in the win by Boston, which played without its leading scorer, Jabari Bird. Yabusele tallied his first double-double of the Summer League with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and he tallied a pair of critical assists for the C’s down the stretch.

Yabusele found Justin Bibbs for a basket at the 1:41 mark of the fourth that doubled Boston’s lead from two to four, and he hit Bibbs again 24 seconds later on an identical action to open the lead up to six with 1:17 to go. The big man finished with three assists on the afternoon.

Pierria Henry and Jarrod Uthoff were the other key contributors to Boston’s offense, which converted on only 39.2 percent of its attempts. Henry tied for the game high in scoring with 15 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists. Uthoff, meanwhile, added in 11 points.

Offense, however, was not what fueled Boston’s win; defense was its calling card on this day.

The Celtics limited Miami to just 39.7 percent shooting from the field and 23.1 percent shooting from long distance. Only three members of the Heat made at least half of their shots, and three of their starters were limited to eight or fewer points.

Each team’s offense was unquestionably affected by the absences of talented players.

Miami rested two of its top three scorers in Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson. Adebayo averaged 16.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in Vegas but played in only two contests during Miami’s trip. Robinson averaged 12.8 PPG while appearing in each of Miami’s four games prior to Saturday.

Boston, meanwhile, played without Bird, whom the team decided to rest for the afternoon. Bird averaged 16.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game during the team’s first four contests in Las Vegas. Head coach Jay Larranaga said after the game that Bird could very well return to the lineup for Sunday’s matchup with Portland.

That game will be broadcast at 8 p.m. ET Sunday night on ESPN2. The winner will move on to play at 10:30 p.m. ET Monday night in the tournament’s semifinals. The opponent is to be determined, but it will come from a crop of teams that includes Memphis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Utah.